That’s what’s printed on the back cover of the book I’m about to close.
I’m fascinated with the complexities of the Universe. I’ve been following theoretical physics and parapsychology since the early seventies and much of what was speculated then is now mainstream science.
So, as I was saying, another famous physicist published another famous tome and I’m two pages from the end, still scratching my head. I’ve been turning these pages for weeks. It’s a hard read. It’s also a New York Times best seller repurposed last year as a documentary. I wish I had seen the TV version because I’m disappointed with this book. Why? Because I struggled to understand it. Only half was clear, and I think in really abstract ways.
Here’s the paragraph where I stopped. If you can follow this, PLEASE explain it to me ‘cause I don’t want to be overwhelmed with this concept if you’re not.
Page 179 of 181
One requirement any law of nature must satisfy is that it dictates that the energy of an isolated body surrounded by empty space is positive, which means that one has to do work to assemble the body. That’s because if the energy of an isolated body were negative, it could be created in a state of motion so that its negative energy was exactly balance by the positive energy due to its motion. If that were true, there would be no reason that bodies could not appear anywhere and everywhere. Empty space would therefore be unstable. But if it costs energy to create an isolated body, such instability cannot happen, because, as we’ve said, the energy of the universe must remain constant. That is what it takes to make the universe locally stable – to make it so that things don’t just appear everywhere from nothing.
Now bear in mind I’ve read everything leading up to this conclusion at least once and sometimes twice and I’m still clueless!
But ya know, it’s probably me. Lots of people, probably smarter than me, read this book, or claimed they did, and the following is what they said on the back cover.
“The authors bring to the field an anecdotal clarity that is something of a first for this genre…Making science like this interesting is not all that hard: making it accessible is the real trick.” – Time
“Provocative…an exploration of the latest thinking about the origins of our universe.” – The New York Times
“Introduces the reader to topics at the frontier of theoretical physics…more clearly for general readers than I have seen before.” – Steven Weinberg, The New York Review of Books
“Groundbreaking” – The Washington Post
Groundbreaking? Not if it’s a cloud in a fog. Guess I’m dense.
Last year I read another groundbreaking national best seller physics book. Again, I’ll keep it nameless for this post. As before, a reviewer from The New York Times had this to say on the front cover.
“(Famous Scientist’s Name) has a gift for elucidating big ideas…Captures and engages the imagination. It’s rewarding to read him.”
For laughs I went back to page 179 and picked the paragraph below.
Second, the original metaphor envisioned the base of the mountain, where the inflation finally comes to rest, as being at “sea level,” altitude zero, meaning the inflation has shed all it’s energy (and pressure). But with our revised metaphor, the height of the mountain’s base should represent the combined energy suffusing space from all sources after inflation has drawn to a close. This is another name for that bubble universe’s cosmological constant. The mystery in explaining our cosmological constant thus translates into the mystery of explaining the altitude of our mountain’s base – why is it so close to, but not exactly at, sea level?
I don’t know. I recognize all those words but when you put them together like this I can’t make it up that mountain…whatever it is. And he never did explain the sea level part! And I’m losing sleep over this!
And yes, I finished the book ‘cause if I learned anything in college, I perfected completing boring homework…then forgetting everything about it.
Look, I give scientists heaps of credit for trying to explain concepts they alone grasp. They are not writers per se. They try and we try and sometimes we meet in the middle. But reviewers? Come on! Are they really more intelligent than you and me?
Here’s what I have to say about the people critiquing books like these.
Famous scientists talk about lots of smart sh*t. No reviewer wants to insult the most famous brains in the world by admitting they couldn’t follow their logic.
And no reviewer will reveal another secret: that a New York Times best seller is based on bookstore ORDERS, not SALES. Bookstores can return unsold books, called remainders, at no charge. So the publishers send tons of pages to stores that have no obligation to buy them. This means Bantam Books or Random House can brag about a Best Seller before it actually becomes one, if it ever does.
But nobody cares what the real sales are because PERCEPTION is all that matters and the perception of popularity begets TV series. And TV series beget more book sales.
See how it works? I too got tricked into buying this book!
This is why I would LOVE to get picked up by a big publisher and let them make me an author star. For that they’ll take 95% of the royalty profits and I’ll happily give it to them. Why? Because I just might get a movie or TV deal and THAT’S where the payoff comes back. And don’t forget the sales from Irv Podolsky T-shirts and man purses!
So boys and girls, no matter what it takes, get institutionally famous! ‘Cause the Big Guns don’t play fair and cheaters DO finish first.
AND…they go to Heaven! I read that in those physics books…if I understood them correctly.
Originally published on Curiosityquills.com.